NHK to cut receiving fees by largest-ever margin in 2023

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
NHK’s headquarters building

NHK will slash monthly receiving fees for satellite TV contracts by ¥220 and those for terrestrial contracts by ¥125 from October 2023, the public broadcaster announced on Tuesday.

Those with satellite contracts can also watch NHK’s terrestrial channels.

The company’s Board of Governors basically has approved an amendment to its fiscal 2021-23 business plan to reduce the fees.

Currently, the monthly receiving fee is ¥2,170 for a satellite contract and ¥1,225 for a terrestrial-only contract (based on the two-month payment program by bank transfer or credit card). If the proposed fee reduction comes into effect, the receiving fee will be ¥1,950 for a satellite contract and ¥1,100 for a terrestrial contract. It will be NHK’s fourth fee reduction and the largest ever for the broadcaster, surpassing the ¥120 monthly reduction on all contracts in 2012.

Because one of NHK’s satellite channels will terminate its services in fiscal 2023, NHK’s fee reduction plan initially focused mainly on satellite contracts, while keeping the reductions for terrestrial contracts to a minimum. However, the company changed its plan and reviewed its earnings and expenses to increase the reduction margin for terrestrial-only contracts because they account for half of all contracts.

“We’ve been able to secure resources for fee reductions through a series of reforms,” NHK President Terunobu Maeda said at a press conference. “As price surges continue all over the world, we’ve decided to go one step further to make this plan to return something to viewers so that it will be of some help to relieve their financial burdens, even if only a little.”

From October 2023, NHK’s payment exemption program, which currently covers students living on their own if they have certain financial issues, will be extended to apply to all students.

At present, receiving fees can vary depending on means of payment, but they will be made the same for all contracts. The fees charged to those who use transfer forms will be reduced by ¥50 to make them the same as for those who pay by bank transfer or credit card.

NHK expects a deficit in its fiscal 2023 finances because of the receiving fee reduction, but the company will use ¥150 billion from its surplus funds — which have swelled up to ¥230 billion — to cover the loss until fiscal 2026.

The broadcaster plans to draw up a balanced budget in fiscal 2027 to maintain the fees at reduced prices.

“Under the current receiving fee system, you have a duty imposed on you to make a contract with NHK if you own a TV, which means you can’t refuse to make a contract even if you are not satisfied with [NHK] programs,” said Rikkyo University Prof. Hiroshi Sunakawa, who specializes in media studies. “That’s why it is necessary for NHK to listen to viewers’ opinions for its programs. Isn’t this plan just going for a fee reduction without reflecting their opinions on the programs? [NHK] should accept more opinions from viewers and think about them.”